The proof was in the kettleHistory

The proof was in the Kettle

Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble.

He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for “sleeping in the barn” rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for drinking and losing his temper and was always the butt of jokes and pranks. One day young swineherds John and Thomas Manning couldn’t resist the opportunity to carry a young calf up the roof and drop it down the wooden clay-lined chimney of Quilter’s little house, whereupon the animal leaped out the fireplace wreaking havoc until the poor man was able to open the door. The Manning boys were brought to court for disturbing the peace.


The Simon-Tuttle-Shatswell house still stands on High Street near Lords Square.

Such public insults caused Quilter to be overly protective of his authority at home.  One March morning in 1664, Rebeckah, the daughter of Simon Tuttle, arrived to “sit and work” with Mark’s wife Francis and “to bear her company.” Mark Quilter came into the house insisting on being fed. “Why are you so hasty?” said his wife, to which Rebeckah Tuttle came to his defense “It may be that he had not his breakfast,” “Yes, two hours before he ate meat,” his wife Francis countered, to which Mark curtly replied, “A poor deal.” “Thus, look here of my pottage,” said Francis to Rebeckah. ” See whether I did not boil a good deal of meat.” At this point Rebeckah attempted to side with Mr. Quilter: “It may be you boil a good deal and eat it up yourself.”  Mr. Quilter, hearing his wife so berated abruptly went to her defense and told Rebeckah to “Hold your prating.”

Rebeckah apparently did not know when to hold her tongue and replied, “I prate no more than you,” upon which Quilter struck her and threw her out the door, the same one that he had thrown the calf out a few years before. The story spread among the wives of Ipswich and their testimony brought Quilter’s conviction in court, fined for striking his wife and hitting a neighbor. He was put under bond to be “of good behaviour toward all persons, but especially his wife.” One of the documents filed in that suit was a deposition of Johanah Green, who stated that “Goodwife Quilter had diverse times come to my daughter’s house.” Johanah was the widow of John Shatswell (father of Richard) and was re-married to John Greene. The Shatswells at some point became the owners of Green’s Point nearby off of Town Farm Road.

As for Goody Quilter, the broth left in her kettle was all the proof she needed that she had not wasted that March morning idly.

(Based on a story as told in “Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750“) and from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters“.

Categories: History, Legends

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